Immortal peril

New Amsterdam (FOX, Mondays, 9 pm)

Why do mystics, wizards, and shamen always go overboard? Once upon a time, for example, when John Amsterdam was stabbed through the heart for stopping the rape of an Indian girl in like the 1600s or something, the girl’s people repaid him by healing him, then making him immortal, then requiring that his immortality can only end when he meets his one true love.

Seems like overkill, and it creates an interesting problem for Mr. Amsterdam, now doomed to live centuries until he bumps into this woman. When we catch up with him, he’s a homicide detective in New York. Prior to that he’d been a coachman, an infantryman, a furniture-maker (whose work now sells for tens of thousands of dollars), and a Civil War triage surgeon (Walt Whitman was his battlefield nurse), among other things. Amsterdam uses this deep life experience to solve murders with absurd bits of historical knowledge. Central Park used to be named after a stream that left sandy deposits, for example. These deposits are perfect for picking up shoeprints.

If this were all there were to New Amsterdam — immortal cop solving contemporary crimes with knowledge of Manhattan’s geological history — it’d be a profoundly stupid iteration of a television form that’s seen endless rehashing. New Amsterdam, though, wants to be more than a cop drama. At heart, the show wants to be a
fairytale about love across time.

That presents a problem. Fairytales, of necessity, are short things meant to convey simple truths. TV shows are just about the exact opposite, attacking the same issues from different angles for seasons and seasons on end. That’s why, despite the obvious romanticism at play, the creators made Amsterdam a cop. Cop shows are notorious for pounding away at the same moral issues for years and years, giving the creators enough police procedural chaff to weave in their little nuggets of romantic gold.

A nice attempt for its weirdness, but still ineffective. Four episodes through, Amsterdam’s already slept with his perfect person. Should be Game Over but since she’s trapped in a loveless marriage you can bet there’ll be some kind of shaman fine print that says he won’t lose his immortality and be able to grow old with the woman until her divorce is final and John’s forced to gun down ex-hubby for stalking her or some nonsense.

Alas, the much-hyped Fox fairytale has already become a soap opera. •

See also
NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament What’s this silliness pre-empting your favorite soap operas, talk shows, and syndicated sitcoms? It’s the NCAA tournament and it has a fairly high level of drama itself. (CBS, Daily, Much of the next three weeks)

The Tudors Season two of the Showtime show that plays loose with the history, focusing on the sexcapades of King Henry VIII and his family, promises more sexiness. (Showtime, Sundays, 9 pm)

Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union
Ullman’s back with an interesting take on sketch comedy. Each show is a day in the life of America, each sketch is under 90 seconds and lampoons our political, social, and pop-cultural hang-ups. (Showtime, Sundays, 10 pm)

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